Dylann Roof, the South Carolina white supremacist convicted of murdering nine congregants of a Black church, is appealing to have his sentence overturned, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday.
His attorneys will make oral arguments set to start this Tuesday before a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, according to AP.
Roof became the first person sentenced to death for a federal hate crime following the 2015 mass shooting of a Bible study group at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, according to the Daily News.
Roof’s lawyers have requested that his sentence be suspended until a “proper competency evaluation” can be carried out, claiming that he should not have been sentenced to death due to his “mental illness.”
Although the court held two competency hearings for him, one before his trial began and another before the start of the sentencing phase, Roof’s attorneys said he did not fail those competency hearings due to his delusional belief that he would be rescued from prison by other white supremacists.
Roof’s lawyers said in a brief that an appellate court should vacate Roof’s convictions and death sentence, or send the case back to a lower court for “proper competency evaluation,” according to AP, adding that the federal trial that decided on a death sentence “departed so far from the standard required when the government seeks the ultimate price that it cannot be affirmed.”
Roof filed his appeal in January 2020, with his attorneys arguing that he had been too mentally ill to stand trial or represent himself at his sentencing, according to The Hill.
The appeal described Roof as a “22-year-old, ninth-grade dropout diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorder, autism, anxiety, and depression, who believed his sentence didn’t matter because white nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war.”
He at first cooperated with his lawyers until they planned to argue he was “developmentally disabled or mentally ill,” according to The Hill.
At that point, Roof decided to represent himself, although he briefly reinstated them for part of the trial before returning to representing himself again for the sentencing.
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